Keeping our kids safe – the adolescent brain

Here on ‘let’s talk!’ we are committed to bringing you news and views on the challenges young people face as the move towards adulthood.

Our under 11s are taught about ‘stranger danger’, have their first lessons about sexuality and begin to take their first, independent trips to shops, school etc. Essentially however, they are still ‘ours’ and more ready to accept the boundaries we place on them as parents.

As children become teenagers these rules are there to be tested and boundaries challenged. Research suggests the changes in behaviour are not simply ‘raging hormones’ but due to profound changes in the young adult brain, and if that is the case, ensuring the safety net is there for them when temptations and peer pressure bombard them from all sides becomes ever more important. Behaviour an adult sees as irrational won’t strike a young person as such and that leads to challenges in the home, as the ‘you think you know everything’/ ‘you just don’t understand’ arguments become toxic and ultimately lead nowhere.

We have written on here before of the peer pressure of ‘neknomination’ and substance misuse, as well as the dangers of ‘sexting‘. Since then we have found out as much as we can; understanding the dangerous craze of using nitrous oxide and other so-called ‘legal highs’; the use of e-cigarettes; the dangers of on-line grooming by paedophiles. For parents these are terrifying issues to face, and to discuss with our children without the seemingly inevitable clashes.

Communication is key, and we have therapists here with expert knowledge of the best ways to ensure healthy relationships with our kids. However, there are steps you can take before mediation and therapy become necessary.

We have a booklist on localbookshops.co.uk and are seeking recommendations from readers of this blog. We have heard recently of the book ‘Brainstorm:The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, written
by Daniel Siegel. He talks about the book in the video below. It is a long piece but fascinating. He explores exciting ways ‘in which understanding how the teenage brain functions can help parents make what is in fact an incredibly positive period of growth, change, and experimentation in their children’s lives less lonely and distressing on both sides of the generational divide’.

Have you read a book that has really helped you retain a loving bond with the young adults in your family? Are you a professional with a bookshelf full of fascinating and accessible studies of teenage behaviour? Are you a teen with a book that tells you how to manage your relationships without conflict?

Do let us know by commenting here, or on our Facebook page or our twitter account, @terraceclinic.

 

 

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‘Sexting’ – how we must make sure young people know how to ‘Zipit’…

7841-Sexting234x346Here at The Terrace we are keen to promote charities that work to support children and protect those that are vulnerable, or who find themselves in situations that could leave them open to abuse and exploitation. We support the NSPCC as our chosen charity and run regular events to raise money for them, maintaining close links with the representative of the charity in the South West.

But it seems that we, as a society can never do enough. Those who want to abuse or place young people in the way of danger seem to find new ways to avoid detection and social media offers endless opportunities to put pressure on those with access to the internet to behave in ways that are harmful.

In the coming weeks we will be highlighting areas of concern that have been mentioned in the press, or which are part of good safeguarding practice. If you are a parent, a professional working with young people, or a young person we hope these posts will make you think and offer ways of identifying possible abuse. They will also offer you ways to address the issue.

Today we focus on ‘sexting’ – which generally refers to the sending and receiving of texts including pictures of young people naked, in their underwear or in sexual positions. It also includes text messages or videos of a sexual nature. They might be sent from a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or a stranger met online. Often it starts as an innocent conversation, but can rapidly go further than one party intended it to.

The charity Childline receives many calls from young people in deep distress  – images of them may have ‘gone viral’ at school or in their community, causing deep embarrassment at least, and at worst a wish to run away or even to commit suicide. Matters are now particularly acute, as a Childline survey showed that 6 out of 10 children own a smartphone, offering instant access to such pictures and messages.

Childline gives the example of one  17-year-old boy who told them sexting was “pretty normal” among his friends.

“My friends and I talk very openly about our experiences within our relationships, and the sort of things we’ve sent each other. It seems like everyone’s doing it…Someone saw a video message I had sent to a previous girlfriend, took a screen shot and posted it online. They called me a pervert and lots of people I knew saw it….I was completely devastated and, to be honest, almost suicidal.”

Isn’t it shocking that we allow such a thing to become a ‘normal’ experience for our children, many of whom are not yet teenagers?

Our nominated charity, the NSPCC, commissioned a report which was published as long ago as May 2012. Findings showed:

  • the primary technology-related threat comes from peers, not ‘stranger danger’
  • sexting is often coercive
  • girls are the most adversely affected
  • technology amplifies the problem by facilitating the objectification of girls
  • sexting reveals wider sexual pressures
  • ever younger children are affected
  • sexting practices are culturally specific

This indicates that where many parents protect their children effectively from ‘stranger danger’, they do not take sufficient account of peer pressure.

Zipit_bannerChildline has developed a phone app called ‘Zipit’ which offers the opportunity for a young person to send an appropriate response to any ‘sexting‘ they receive – a witty ‘killer comeback’ that gives them control. Essentially though, we need to ensure that schools take responsibility for education children and young people about the dangers of sending sexy images or messages using their phone. We also need to encourage them to check out the Childline website which has a terrific section on how to deal with a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. It is all about defusing the pressure that they feel coming at them from their peers.

So we must all make ourselves aware of the issue and recognise that we as adults are not always innocent in this area. Celebrities have been caught out tweeting images of themselves in compromising positions and something that we feel comfortable sending as a flirty message may feel very different when it is read at the other end of the ‘line’.

So take a look at all the great information on the websites of children’s charities. Awareness of these issues is a great start.